Wimbledon - A Scene Setter

Jun 23, 2022, 7:02:00 AM | by Craig Gabriel

Wimbledon is upon us and the hallowed grass courts of the All England Lawn Tennis Club capture the imagination. Craig Gabriel looks at some of the facts and figures that make The Championships what they are.


The Prestige of Being a Badge Carrying Member
The AELTC has five membership categories: Full, Life, Honorary, Temporary and Junior Temporary. Full and Life Membership is limited to 375 which reflects the number of seats at the original club stands on Worple Road which is now residential dwellings. All enjoy full privileges.

Honorary Members elected by the Committee and mostly past Singles Champions and other people who have rendered special service to the sport. Then there are around 120 Temporary Members also elected by the Committee and that’s renewed annually.

If you want to try and become a member, you must be proposed, seconded and supported by four existing Full Members, all of whom are required to write in support of the application. The waiting list of about 1000 dates back many years. As I was once told: “My dear boy, it’s been said it’s easier to win the Championships.” Ask Ash Barty, she’s the most recent new member.


Royal Box
The Queen used to be the Patron of the AELTC and HRH The Duke of Kent was the President. Now Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge has taken over both roles. The Royal Box has 80 dark green Lloyd Loom wicker chairs. The Queen attended in 1957, 1962, 1977, 2010. 

Since 1902
For 120 years the tennis balls used at Wimbledon have been by Slazenger. They used to be white balls that came out of a cardboard box not the pressurised cans now used. In 1986 things changed and that was the first-year yellow balls were used for The Championships.

Close to 55,000 balls are used during the Wimbledon fortnight. Like most tournaments the balls are changed after seven and then every nine games. The reason the first change is at seven and not nine games is to take the warmup into consideration.

The components that make up a tennis ball come from eleven countries and start with New Zealand wool. The end product is made in The Philippines. During The Championships used match balls are sold once a day from a small kiosk on the grounds with the funds going to charity.


The Biggest Change this Year
For the first time the Middle Sunday which has traditionally been the “Rest Day” and had only been used very rarely, to catch up with matches if the first week’s weather had been really bad, will from this year become an official play day. No longer will we see what was regarded as the greatest day on the tennis calendar, the second Monday when all fourth round matches were played.

Anyone for Strawberries?
Wimbledon is the largest single annual sporting catering operation carried out in Europe (even with Brexit) and the amount of food and drink consumed is like a crosscourt winner. Some of the quantities of food and drink served at The Championships:
- 191,930 portions of strawberries
- 18,061 serves of fish and chips
- 6,147 serves of pasta for competitors
- 4,242 serves of sushi for competitors
- 276,291 glasses of Pimm's
- 64,703 ice creams 
- 234,416 meals served throughout The Championships


Shouting from the Roof Top

Australia started the trend when the Australian Open was played under a retractable roof for the first time, and it took the other majors more than two decades to start catching up. Wimbledon was second to put a roof on, and the Centre Court roof came into being in 2009.

There are ten trusses holding up the roof (glad they are strong as that doesn’t seem like a lot) and each weigh 70 tonnes and the roof takes approximately ten minutes to close, and they move 214millimetres per second. There are nine chiller units required to cool the air, still it does get very humid inside when the roof is closed.

The roof is 16 metres above the court surface and 30 minutes is the maximum time expected before play can get underway. The span of the moving roof trusses is 77 metres, by comparison the width of a football pitch is 68 metres and 100% of the roof’s fabric is recyclable. When the roof was completed, they were able to add an additional 1200 seats, taking Centre Court to 15000 seats.

Play Shall be Continuous
Since 1922 The Championships, meetings without any rain interruptions numbered just eight - 1931, 1976, 1977, 1993, 1995, 2009, 2010, 2019.

And a Final Did You Know …
The ivy on the walls is Boston Ivy and the green and purple colours of the Club have no actual significance – they are not a nod to royalty as many believe them to be.